Happy Campers


“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” – Nehemiah 8:10


 To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone really joyful when they were going through a trial or a testing of their faith. But God says it’s necessary at times to go through difficult circumstances in order for us to become “mature and complete” (James 1:4).

I think the reason that we’re not always “happy campers” when we go through trials is because we have a tendency to equate being “happy” with being “joyful.” And that’s where, I believe, we make our mistake.

Being happy is certainly not wrong, but happiness is more equated with pleasure than with pain or maturity and being happy is usually very temporary. We’re happy when we get a raise in pay but it doesn’t take us long to adjust to it. Then we want another raise. We’re happy when we can buy a new car but that new car smell doesn’t take long to go away, plus the value of that new vehicle depreciates faster than the fall of the stock market on a Black Monday. We’re happy when we can buy a new home but how long before we want to remodel it because it’s too small or not up-to-date?

Joy on the other hand, certainly can include being happy but joy comes with an eternal value because in the spiritual sense, joy comes as a result of God doing something in our lives that we couldn’t do (or wouldn’t) do for ourselves to help us become better followers of Christ.

Joy is not dependent on our circumstances but we can find joy in the Lord even in the midst of suffering. In looking back, when that has happened to me, I have found that God was maturing me so that I can become a more complete person in Him. I suspect He is doing the same in your lives as well.

The Greek word for “joy” in the New Testament is char. What makes that extremely interesting is that it is the root word for charis, which means “grace.” Charis, in turn is the root word for charisma, or “spiritual gift.” Do you see the connection?

I recently read that the command that is repeated most often in the Bible is, “rejoice” (238 times) which literally means, “to have joy.” We are commanded to be joyful, not for God’s sake but for ours. Joy is more than mere positive thinking or pumping oneself up with compliments and encouragement or putting on a smiley face to hide our pain. Joy has at its root God’s own nature that he He has promised to “never leave us or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5).

To be full of joy is to recognize that we have a reason to be encouraged because God is on our side and has heartily and joyfully embraced us as His own! So we can be joyful, saints of God, because our Lord thinks we’re so special that He wants to make us even better. The writer of Hebrews tells us how:

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2).

Someday we will join Him.

One final thought on Joy from A. W. Tozer: “The Christian owes it to the world to be supernaturally joyful.” Hey, that’s us, church. – Maranatha!


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